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How to budget for an interior design project:

The first step when planning for an interior design project is both the most challenging and the most important: preparing a realistic project budget. Whether you’ll be building from the ground up, tackling a large scale home renovation or a single room remodel, or furnishing entire rooms, having a realistic budget will give clarity into what is possible and will guide the project’s style, quality, and execution. Having a budget of $25,000 for a kitchen remodel versus $200,000 will yield a very different process, team, and result. 

Homeowners often have a beautiful vision in their heads but aren’t quite sure how to translate it into a budget number. You may be thinking, “I know what I want, but have no idea what it will cost!” 

As a full-service interior designer, a large part of my role is helping clients understand the cost of various elements in a design project, especially when it comes to renovating and construction, as those numbers aren’t readily known (as the price for a coffee table or rug would be). Then, once a budgetary number is identified, my job is to work within that budget to design a functional and beautiful space.   

There are many factors and elements that contribute to the final design investment amount, and every designer is experienced in working within different budgets. After 4 years of working in the design industry, I’ve been able to establish some budgetary starting points for design projects that allow us to work with high quality vendors, reputable contractors, and skilled tradespeople to give our clients a unique space that exceeds their expectations. 

For projects that involve construction, I recommend a project budget of $60,000, or more, not including design fees. 

Our construction design services are tailored to each project and may include architechtural review or creation of plans, material selections, creation of spec books, contractor collaboration, and ongoing project management. 

For projects that involve furnishings, I recommend a starting budget of $25,000 for living rooms, not including design fees. For an entire home, this often breaks out to roughly 20% of the house's total value, but depending on your needs, goals, and style, that percentage can vary widely. 

Estimating a Furniture Budget

One way to understand the cost of home furnishings is to look around your room and write down an estimate of the cost to purchase all new items for that particular space as if you were designing that room from scratch. Include the following items in your price estimate:

  • Window treatments (drapes, shades, valances, etc.)

  • Window treatment hardware

  • Window installation

  • Rugs and rug pads

  • Sofa(s)

  • Chairs 

  • Ottomans

  • Pillows

  • Throw blankets

  • Coffee table

  • Coffee table accessories

  • Console table

  • Console table accessories

  • Mirror

  • Artwork

  • Side tables

  • Side table accessories

  • Lamps (floor and table)

  • Ceiling Lighting

  • Wall sconces

  • Paint

  • Wallpaper

  • Decorative moldings

Additionally, it’s important to consider:

  • Sales tax on all those items

  • Shipping and delivery for all those items

  • Installation for any of the above items (window treatments, lighting, moldings, artwork, painter, etc.)

This exercise helps to illustrate the cumulative cost (sometimes surprising!) when you consider each and every item needed. This can help to establish realistic budget ranges to furnish whole rooms.

Often, though, only some items in a space need to be replaced. For this, and a variety of additional reasons, establishing a realistic budget for any interior design project is difficult. My experience working on a wide variety of design projects allows me to assist with cost estimating to pinpoint a budget amount that will allow the implementation of your vision, while still not straining your bank account. It’s my goal to help you make the most of your monetary investment.

It’s also important to understand the possibilities and constraints of your space – how much room you have to work with, what electrical or plumbing elements may be impacted, what end result are you hoping to achieve. A few additional questions to ask yourself while contemplating your budget are:

  • Does your project require any skilled trades, such as carpentry, paint, wallpaper, electricians, plumbers, etc.?

  • What is the total square footage of the space? Is it so large that it’s actually two spaces within one? Or, is the shape of the room unique which will require custom cut rugs and special made furniture?

  • Is there anything you’d like to keep, or is everything being replaced? 

  • Is this a forever home, or are you planning to move in a few years?

  • What type of materials are appropriate for your lifestyle?  Family-friendly with high durability? Organic and natural fibers? Upcycled items and materials with recycled content? High-end, luxury materials that feel and look opulent? 

  • Do you have cost limits for specific pieces, or just an overall budget? For example, some clients simply may not be able to justify spending a lot on a sofa, but may be agreeable to spending quite a bit for original artwork.

  • How much assistance do you need through the implementation of your project? Do you want to manage the scheduling of tradespeople, or would you prefer someone else handle the project management?

  • Are you quick to make decisions, or do you need a lot of time to think things through? 

Particularly for projects that involve construction (kitchen remodels, wall re-configuration), it’s always a good practice to plan extra for unforeseen circumstances. As you put the finishing touches on your project it’s all too common that last-minute additions, discoveries, or changes are required. For construction projects, Irecommend setting aside a contingency fund of about 30% of your construction budget. 

Whether your interior design project cap is $25,000 or $500,000, nailing down a number right from the start is key to ensuring a successful project that aligns with (or exceeds!) your expectations. Whether you want to renovate and furnish your home, or whether you are building new], I can help you establish a budget you are comfortable with that aligns with your goals so you can move forward confidently with your design project.

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